2030. The world hovers on the brink of World War IV. Kaneda, one-time leader of a delinquent gang, is caught up in the aftermath of a power struggle between a Japanese military research organization--led by a man known only as the Colonel--and a resistance group whose members include Kay, Ryu, and Chiyoko.
The Colonel had a number of psychic children under his control. Each is identified by a number marked on the hand. Among them were Kiyoko and Masaru--Numbers 25 and 27--and the blind Lady Miyako--Number 19--who once led the resistance and now heads a great religious cult. Number 41 is Tetsuo, once Kaneda's close friend, but now his greatest enemy. Tetsuo was crippled by a laser blast from the military satellite SOL, which the Colonel controlled, and has used cybernetics and telekinesis to fabricate himself a prosthetic left arm.
Akira is the most powerful of the children. He was placed in cryogenic sleep forty years ago after he started the third world war with a mental blast. Akira was recently reawakened by the jealous and ambitious Tetsuo, and shortly thereafter, he responded to an emotional trauma by again devastating Neo-Tokyo. A state of emergency now exists in Japan, and new powers and allegiances have arisen.
In the western part of Neo-Tokyo, the Great Tokyo Empire is formed--a monarchy with Akira on the throne and Tetsuo as his prime minister. Together the pair use their powers, healing the sick, wielding control of the faithful, and organizing their subjects into fighting units to defend their land. To increase the Empire's power, Tetsuo uses drugs to develop psychic abilities in certain of his subjects.
The Empire is infiltrated by teams of spies from the outside world. All except Lieutenant Yamada--who takes temporary shelter with Ryu--are killed. Ryu wants to join with and help Yamada, but the spy decides to separate from his would-be ally and go his own way.
The Colonel is wounded and living in hiding. He is determined to kill Tetsuo, who he believes could become another Akira. At this same time, Tetsuo is trying to master his own weaknesses and his powers, so that he can challenge Akira's awesome might. Meanwhile, Lady Miyako and her psychically gifted monks are caring for Masaru and Kiyoko, who are sick with withdrawal from the drug which augments and channels mental powers. They await the return of Kaneda and his friend Kai, who are using a "caretaker robot" and a motorcycle "borrowed" from their old enemy, Joker of the Clown Gang, to transport the wounded Kay and Chiyoko. Lady Miyako is particularly concerned about Kay who is a powerful psychic medium.
Aboard an American naval vessel, an international conclave of scientists assembles. They pool their knowledge of the Akira project which they code-name Juvenile A. Their data indicates that the effect of Akira's power is like that of the Big Bang and that the most recent blast (which was one of Tetsuo's) lacked the scope and dimension of the ones Akira caused.
The scientists are aghast when they learn that the U.S. Government has formed an Akira Assassination Corps. They are even more upset by the knowledge that the young, dedicated soldiers are sure to be slaughtered by the inconceivable might of their enemy. Tetsuo pays a visit to his "fan club." During a flight exercise, he destroys a plane, killing the pilot. Then, he taunts the scientists of Juvenile A before disappearing in a burst of telekinetic energy which seriously injures one of them.
Kaneda and Kai safely reach Lady Miyako's shrine, where the great mystic heals Kay. Joker is outraged to find out Kaneda and Kai have totaled one of his bikes and his taking payment out of their hides. They remind him that all three have put their differences behind them to unite against Tetsuo.
To inspire their followers, the leaders of the Great Tokyo Empire hold a grand convocation, half rock concert and half religious ceremony. Outside the stadium where this occurs, Ryu prevents Lt. Yamada from firing a biochemical weapon which could destroy Akira...and take most of the population of Neo-Tokyo with him.
Tetsuo uses his powers to transport himself to the moon, where he creates a massive crater. In the ensuing earthbound seismic mayhem, Ryu is buried under a falling building.
A boy called Tetsuo telekinetically punches a quarter mile hole in the moon, wreaking havoc on a cosmic scale. Joker and his motorcycle gang race their bikes to outrun a vicious tidal wave--in the city's subway tunnels. Young lovers Kay and Kaneda share a gentle first kiss before setting off for the violent overthrow of a ruthless dictator. And nameless special forces troops dive into icy waters in a desperate last ditch assault to preserve life as we know it on the planet we call Earth.